Sun, Oct 03, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Sudan to host foreign force in Darfur


Sudan has agreed to allow 3,500 African Union troops into embattled western Darfur as a means of building confidence among civilians who, UN officials have repeatedly said, do not trust their own government authorities. Among other roles, the African Union monitors will be allowed to police the Sudanese police.

The agreement represents the most dramatic step taken by this government to comply with the demands of the UN Security Council. It is already under international pressure, most notably the threat of sanctions, should it fail to restore security in Darfur.

The war has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced nearly 1.5 million from their homes, mostly black Africans. It began in early 2003 with a rebel uprising that demanded greater political and economic rights for the long-oppressed west. The Arab-led government responded with violence, using its own military and arming private Arab militias.

The US has called the violence genocidal. The UN Security Council, in a resolution passed in September, charged a commission of inquiry with determining whether the violence in Darfur met the criteria for genocide.

The government's decision comes as the Security Council prepares to review a report on Sudan's progress by the secretary-general's special representative on Sudan, Jan Pronk. The swift expansion of African Union troops and the broadening of their mandate has been among his key demands.

"We need many thousands of African Union troops with a broad mandate, quick deployment, big numbers," Pronk said in an interview last week.

Until now, Sudan has opposed foreign intervention in security matters and allowed only a handful of African Union soldiers to monitor a cease-fire agreement; in the Darfur area roughly the size of France, there are 68 unarmed monitors and 308 armed troops to protect them.

In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Friday, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said his government had asked the African Union to work with its security forces in Darfur "so that we will make sure that there is no violation of human rights, there is no killing, there is building of confidence."

"We need to expand their mandate and to give them more mandates: for protection, mandate for checking, mandate for investigating; and yes, they need such mandates," he said.

Adam Thiam, an African Union Commission spokesman in Addis Ababa, on Friday that deployment would begin as soon as possible. Both Nigeria and Rwanda have committed the necessary number of troops, but logistical support like trucks and helicopters remain an obstacle.

Pronk's spokeswoman, Radhia Achour, welcomed the government's move as a "major step forward."

The broadened mandate of the African Union would include monitoring the Sudanese police, but would fall significantly short of the authorization to protect civilians. That has not been discussed and is unlikely to be accepted by Sudan, UN officials have said.

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